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Common species[edit]

Although any mammal can produce milk, commercial dairy farms are typically onespecies enterprises. In developed countries, dairy farms typically consist of high
producing dairy cows. Other species used in commercial dairy farming
includegoats, sheep, and camels. In Italy, donkey dairies are growing in popularity to
produce an alternative milk source for human infants. [1]
Bovine Dairy Farms[edit]
Most dairy farms sell the male calves born by their cows, usually for veal production, or
breeding depending on quality of the bull calf, rather than raising non-milk-producing
stock.[citation needed] Many dairy farms also grow their own feed, typically including corn,
and hay. This is fed directly to the cows, or is stored as silage for use during the winter
season. Dairy cows also eat byproducts from other industries, including cottonseed from
textile manufacturing and dried distiller's grains from local breweries.

A dairy farm on the banks of the Columbia River inClark County, Washington (May

Dairy farming has been part of agriculture for thousands of years. Historically it has
been one part of small, diverse farms. In the last century or so larger farms doing only
dairy production have emerged. Large scale dairy farming is only viable where either a
large amount of milk is required for production of more durable dairy products such
ascheese, butter, etc. or there is a substantial market of people with cash to buy milk,
but no cows of their own.[citation needed]
Hand milking[edit]

Woman hand milking a cow.

Centralized dairy farming as we understand it primarily developed around villages and

cities, where residents were unable to have cows of their own due to a lack of grazing
land. Near the town, farmers could make some extra money on the side by having
additional animals and selling the milk in town. The dairy farmers would fill barrels with
milk in the morning and bring it to market on a wagon. Until the late 19th century, the
milking of the cow was done by hand. In the United States, several large dairy
operations existed in some northeastern states and in the west, that involved as many
as several hundred cows, but an individual milker could not be expected to milk more
than a dozen cows a day. Smaller operations predominated.

For most herds, milking took place indoors twice a day,[2] in a barn with the cattle tied by
the neck with ropes or held in place by stanchions. Feeding could occur simultaneously
with milking in the barn, although most dairy cattle were pastured during the day
between milkings. Such examples of this method of dairy farming are difficult to locate,
but some are preserved as a historic site for a glimpse into the days gone by. One such
instance that is open for this is at Point Reyes National Seashore.[3]

Vacuum bucket milking[edit]

Demonstration of a new Soviet milker device. East Germany, 1952

The first milking machines were an extension of the traditional milking pail. The early
milker device fit on top of a regular milk pail and sat on the floor under the cow.
Following each cow being milked, the bucket would be dumped into a holding tank.
These were introduced in the early 20th century.

This developed into the Surge hanging milker. Prior to milking a cow, a large
wideleather strap called a surcingle was put around the cow, across the cow's lower
back. The milker device and collection tank hung underneath the cow from the strap.
This innovation allowed the cow to move around naturally during the milking process
rather than having to stand perfectly still over a bucket on the floor.
Milking pipeline[edit]
Main article: milking pipeline

The next innovation in automatic milking was the milk pipeline, introduced in the late
20th century. This uses a permanent milk-return pipe and a second vacuum pipe that
encircles the barn or milking parlor above the rows of cows, with quick-seal entry ports
above each cow. By eliminating the need for the milk container, the milking device
shrank in size and weight to the point where it could hang under the cow, held up only

by the sucking force of the milker nipples on the cow's udder. The milk is pulled up into
the milk-return pipe by the vacuum system, and then flows by gravity to the milkhouse
vacuum-breaker that puts the milk in the storage tank. The pipeline system greatly
reduced the physical labor of milking since the farmer no longer needed to carry around
huge heavy buckets of milk from each cow.

The pipeline allowed barn length to keep increasing and expanding, but after a point
farmers started to milk the cows in large groups, filling the barn with one-half to onethird of the herd, milking the animals, and then emptying and refilling the barn. As herd
sizes continued to increase, this evolved into the more efficient milking parlor.
Milking parlors[edit]

Efficiency of four different milking parlors. 1=Bali-Style 50 cows/h; 2=Swingover 60

cows/h; 3=Herringbone 75 cows/h; 4=Rotary 250 cows/h

Innovation in milking focused on mechanizing the milking parlor (known

inAustralia and New Zealand as a milking shed) to maximize the number of cows per
operator which streamlined the milking process to permit cows to be milked as if on an
assembly line, and to reduce physical stresses on the farmer by putting the cows on a
platform slightly above the person milking the cows to eliminate having to constantly

bend over. Many older and smaller farms still have tie-stall or stanchion barns, but
worldwide a majority of commercial farmshave parlors.

Herringbone and parallel parlors[edit]

In herringbone and parallel parlors, the milker generally milks one row at a time. The
milker will move a row of cows from the holding yard into the milking parlor, and milk
each cow in that row. Once all of the milking machines have been removed from the
milked row, the milker releases the cows to their feed. A new group of cows is then
loaded into the now vacant side and the process repeats until all cows are milked.
Depending on the size of the milking parlor, which normally is the bottleneck, these rows
of cows can range from four to sixty at a time.

Rotary parlors[edit]

Rotary milking parlor

In rotary parlors, the cows are loaded one at a time onto the platform as it rotates. The
milker stands near the entry to the parlor and puts the cups on the cows as they move
past. By the time the platform has completed almost a full rotation, another milker or a
machine removes the cups and the cow steps backwards off the platform and then

walks to its feed. Rotary cowsheds, as they are called in New Zealand, started in the
1980s[4][5] but are expensive compared to Herringbone cowshed - the older New Zealand
norm.[6] A rotary is about 25% faster than a herringbone shed for the same number of
cows.[citation needed]
Automatic milker take-off[edit]

It can be harmful to an animal for it to be over-milked past the point where the udder
has stopped releasing milk. Consequently the milking process involves not just applying
the milker, but also monitoring the process to determine when the animal has
been milked out and the milker should be removed. While parlor operations allowed a
farmer to milk many more animals much more quickly, it also increased the number of
animals to be monitored simultaneously by the farmer. The automatic take-off system
was developed to remove the milker from the cow when the milk flow reaches a preset
level, relieving the farmer of the duties of carefully watching over 20 or more animals
being milked at the same time. This is a standard procedure in New Zealand. [citation needed]
Fully automated robotic milking[edit]

An automatic milking system unit as an exhibit at a museum

Further information: Automatic milking

In the 1980s and 1990s, robotic milking systems were developed and introduced
(principally in the EU). Thousands of these systems are now in routine operation. In
these systems the cow has a high degree of autonomy to choose her time of milking
within pre-defined windows. These systems are generally limited to intensively
managed systems although research continues to match them to the requirements of
grazing cattle and to develop sensors to detect animal health and fertility automatically.
Every time the cow enters the stall she is fed and her collar is scanned to record that
she was milked.